Goodbye Clutter, Hello Calm: How a Wardrobe Makeover Changed My Life


I can hardly believe it’s been eight months since my last post. All of last summer, I kept telling myself that I’d get back to blogging–so many hiking excursions and road trips to share–but fall came and went and still nothing. Here in the middle of winter, I’ve decided it’s high time I pop back in to say hello. Hello.

It’s not that nothing’s been happening in my life; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Life has been HAPPENING and moving forward in so many ways. While I’ve been absent from blogging, I’ve been keeping busy achieving a couple of goals from my personal strategic plan (yes, I have one), expanding my education to advance my career, and indulging in travel both at home and away.

But even more important than that, I’ve been decluttering.

Making the Magic Happen

If you’ve been keeping your finger on the pulse of pop culture, I know what you’re probably thinking: she must have read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. For those who aren’t aware of Kondo-mania sweeping the country, the book is the new neatnik’s bible; precise and prescriptive for people in pursuit of a more ordered life. It’s on my 2016 reading list but due to the book’s overwhelming popularity, it’s not likely I’ll get off my library’s waiting list for it until sometime in June. Of 2017. It’s fine. I can wait.

Truthfully, my goal of tidying up began almost three years ago, when I was in the throes of selling nearly all my worldly possessions in preparation for the move to Seattle. I’ve talked about the experience before, but I’ll summarize: I had a lot of stuff. Seeing how much I’d accumulated has almost entirely cured me of blind consumerism forever.

For the next two and a half years, I lived somewhere between two lives: minimalist and hoarder. Sure, I’d stopped mindlessly buying things, but there was still a lot of clutter in my life: the water shoes I purchased for a trip to the Caribbean six years ago but hadn’t worn since, the shoulder bag I used but hated, the skirt that didn’t quite fit right.

What inspired me anew to clear out the detritus of my life was stumbling onto the blog Unfancy. While searching for travel packing videos (I have an odd obsession with them), I discovered blogger Caroline Rector’s take on building and maintaining a capsule wardrobe. For her, that means 37 pieces, including shoes, for each season of the year, remixed and matched to create a variety of looks you love.capsule-wardrobe

I won’t get into the specifics of her system here–you can review her excellent blog for details–but I was inspired to take a fresh approach to my own closet. What would happen if I loved everything in my closet? What if when I put on something from my wardrobe I felt good in it? What if I wasn’t spending so much time each morning searching through a closet full of clothes to find just the right outfit? What if dressing could be peaceful and simple?

From that jumping off point, I dove into my closet with a vengeance, quickly identifying clothing I could donate or discard. Did I like how I looked in it? Did I like the way I felt? Did it fit well? Had it seen better days? By using these questions as a general guideline for what I wanted my wardrobe to look and feel like, I whittled my once disorganized closet to the essentials just in time for fall. Armed with a precise idea of the clothing gaps I needed to fill, I visited one of the nearby outlets and just like that, I had a clutter-free fall capsule wardrobe.

But this isn’t really about my fall capsule. It’s about what happened afterwards. Less time spent thinking about what to wear. Fewer pre-commute frustrations. How I dressed become less of a distraction and with that, I found more time in my day. Sure, I might not (yet) be an acolyte of the Kon-Mari method, but I found that there is most definitely life-changing magic in the art of tidying up.

Committing to a Clutter-Free Life

I began to wield that magic in other areas of my life. Cosmetics I’d been holding on to for those “what if?” moments were tossed. Jewelry that I didn’t enjoy wearing was put aside. With less clutter in my environment, my organization skills improved. I got to Inbox Zero in not just one but two of my private email accounts. Projects I’d been putting off forever finally got done. I even cleaned up my famously cluttered personal computer desktop, for frick’s sake. That’s some serious witchcraft.


More magic? As I began to clear the clutter, I realized I didn’t really need anything. Everything I need, I already have. And in the rare instances when a specific need does arise, I’m much more deliberate about carefully planning and budgeting for it. Most important, what this new approach to possessions has done is that it’s brought me a new sense of freedom. Greater clarity of mind. For the first time in a long time, things don’t seem so overwhelming and some of the dreams I’ve put on hold seem not just possible, but inevitable.

What will I do with this newfound freedom? I plan to keep living in it and continuing progress toward creating a life I love. This process is by no means complete. Not only do I have to expand this approach into other areas of my life (friendships and finance come immediately to mind), I’m also going to have to work to maintain the ground I’ve gained through this experience. Our culture of conspicuous consumption has plans for me: it wants my money, my space, my time. But I must protect this house. How? I don’t know yet. But I believe it starts by embracing the lightness and joy I feel and focusing on that. Remembering that where I am at this moment feels like the first series of real steps I’m taking toward the life I’ve been envisioning for myself. And for right now, that is enough.

Tiny house, here I come.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye Clutter, Hello Calm: How a Wardrobe Makeover Changed My Life

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